Emirates persists on US trade agreement

Emirates Business 24/7, UAE

Emirates persists on US trade agreement

By Safura Rahimi

17 April 2008

The United States has not dropped the ball on a free-trade agreement with the UAE, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, told delegates at the Middle East-Asia Leadership Forum in Dubai.

The UAE has taken a second route to an FTA with the US, after failing to meet the time frame originally established by the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) granted by Congress. Any trade agreement has to go through the US Congress. The TPA - or “fast-track” negotiating authority - expired last June and has not been renewed.

The UAE has taken the next step in liberalising trade with the US through the Tifa-Plus (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) process, which provides a framework for further discussions on the FTA and on short-term issues.

“When we found this bit was put on hold we took the Tifa and created Tifa-Plus, which means we continue under the Tifa while the free-trade agreement gets attributed. The UAE is the number one trade destination for the US in the Middle East, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Israel, and we don’t have a free trade agreement,” Sheikha Lubna said.

“The challenge in the US today is whether Congress or the new administration are pro-trade or not. If the US becomes protectionist, trade moves everywhere else.”

The US trade exchange with the UAE is worth $14bn, she said, adding the trade exchange with China currently stands at $20bn.

In December, the US Trade Representative office in Washington told Emirates Business trade talks between the US and the UAE would not be resumed under the current administration.

The National Foreign Trade Council in Washington said that there will be no renewal - or more likely, a targeted extension - of the TPA until the next administration takes office in 2009.

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